OHSU

Medical Treatment for Brain and Central Nervous System Tumors

Some brain tumors are treated with medicine (drugs) to kill cancer cells. This is called medical therapy or chemotherapy. This type of brain tumor treatment can kill cancer cells that your doctor cannot safely remove with surgery. Medical therapy (chemotherapy) can also slow the growth of brain tumor cells or help reduce brain cancer symptoms.

You might have medical therapy if:

  • Cancer spreads to your brain from another area of the body (metastatic brain cancer)
  • Your brain cancer recurs (comes back) after treatment

Some primary brain tumors (tumors that start in the brain) are also treated with medical therapy.

Medical therapy for brain tumors is usually given after surgery. You might have radiation therapy at the same time.

You might take the drugs used in medical therapy (chemotherapy) as:

  • A pill
  • An injection (shot)
  • An intravenous medication (IV)

If you have chemotherapy for brain cancer, your medical oncologist decides what type of medicine you take, how you take it and how long you need treatment.

Types of Medical Therapy (Chemotherapy) for Brain Cancer

Medical therapy (chemotherapy) uses two types of drugs:

  • Cytotoxic drugs (medicines that kill cancer cells). These drugs also affect healthy cells.
  • Cytostatic drugs (medicines that stop cancer cells from reproducing). These drugs destroy cancer cells without affecting healthy cells as much.

Cytostatic drugs are also called targeted therapies. They keep cancer from growing and spreading and are more commonly used to treat brain tumors.

Depending on the type of brain tumor you have, your general health and other factors, your medical oncologist will help decide which medicine is right for you.